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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers
Old 03-23-2007, 11:18 AM   #41
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers

As one of those slimy bottom-dwelling scum-sucking COLA-pension-with-healthcare recipients I've been too cowardly to join this thread, but never let it be said that I'd hide behind somone willing to make the ultimate sacrifice by throwing themselves into the fray shouting the battlecry "Variable annuities!!"

Quote:
Originally Posted by Empty Pockets
I thought I made it somewhat clear that I wasn't trying to sell anybody on an annuity. I don't want this thread to become an annuity bashing-defending thread, that's been done enough.
I thought I might have something to add to this thread since I have a Variable Annuity and I have a portfolio of after tax index funds. And yes, I work with a financial planner. I wanted to put more in the annuity and he talked me out of it. He said I should have a portion in the taxable funds.
There are a lot of good people here, but I'll be leaving this forum now. I can get called an idiot anywhere. I'm just a working stiff with a High School education, but if the S& P averages 9% for the next 18 years I'll have about $5,000,000 when I turn 59.5 Let me be an idiot and I'll leave the rest of you alone now. Good bye.
Geez, it's impossible to please every poster on this board, EP (and as a moderator you could be guaranteed to please just about none of them) but you can get called an "idiot" anywhere on the Internet by complete strangers or even at home with your family-- so why not here among the people you know?

I can't defend the use of the "I" word, either, but I suspect that it's difficult to find a board anywhere that would support any investment product with high expenses & fees, no matter how iron-clad the "guarantee".

As Rich has said, "We all done good". Many of us won the game in the third quarter and have just been running up the score ever since. But there always has to be a distinction between the cold-hearted Vulcan logic of financial analysis and the emotional "sleep at night" comfort of paying extra for some sort of reassurance or assistance. Either is an equally valid reason for making a choice-- as long as it's an informed choice. Of course the two camps can barely communicate with each other, let alone comprehend the other's thoughts & feelings.

While a COLA pension + benefits sure looks good from this side of the finish line, I also hope that no one chooses their career, even their employment, by saying "Gee, and the benefits are good!" A few years later you might be saying "Man, this job sure sucks and that third heart attack almost got me, but I'm hoping to survive these health risks long enough to collect that pension check!"

There's nothing like the feeling you get when you realize that your career is over and you're eight or nine years short of vesting your benefits, let alone retirement. (In the Navy the phrase is "FITREP fodder", someone who's there just to provide a pool of candidates against which the future admirals can be ranked #1.) While we'd all agree that something should be done about that situation, it's mighty hard to find the solution when you're overworked, underslept, and too focused on the short term (to say nothing of the next paycheck). You can't easily step back for a complete fiscal & emotional inventory followed by a thoughtful analysis of where you need to go and a detailed timeline of how to get there. You'll never be able to do it if your boss can't even understand the meaning of the words "time off" let alone laugh at your request.

So as one of those pensioneers, let me say that I feel lucky to have survived the experience. It's ironic that I spent one of my worst tours surrounded by literally dozens of helpful & happy Reservists yet I couldn't begin to figure out how to "solve my problem" of dealing with active duty and what was left of my time served career. I think that for everyone with an occasional feeling of "pension envy", there's someone else who envies their career flexibility and their choices.

Even after the victory lap I'm still trying to decide where the grass is greenest. And on my deathbed I'll probably bolt upright, open my eyes wide, grab one of my great-great-grandchildren by the throat, and gasp "See, the other side says that the SWR is really 5.32%!!" before I expire. Everyone will shake their heads and mourn "What a shame Gramps was so hallucinated & delusional before he croaked." "Besides, everyone knows that the one true SWR is 3.764%."

Everyone needs to find their own roads to Dublin. We don't have to follow each other, and we didn't necessarily pick the best routes.
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers
Old 03-23-2007, 11:21 AM   #42
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers

Nord, really well-stated. Thanks as always for sharing your insight.
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers
Old 03-23-2007, 12:18 PM   #43
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
Besides, everyone knows that the one true SWR is 3.764%.
I had a similar experience to EP on another board. I quickly jumped in and started to share all my good and bad financial experiences. I quickly discovered through a barrage of potshots that the board regulars had some strongly-held biasses that they were not open to move away from.

I still enjoy that board immensely and sometime even bait the hook for another bite. The thing is that some people have discovered things that work for them and are unlikely to radically change just because alternative evidence is presented. And of course YMMV too.
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers
Old 03-23-2007, 12:37 PM   #44
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers

Quote:
Originally Posted by kcowan
The thing is that some people have discovered things that work for them and are unlikely to radically change just because alternative evidence is presented. And of course YMMV too.
It's the old, "I may have only one data point, but it's a good one because it is mine!"

Still, I think the i word is pretty strong. I used it once, and (rightly) had my mouth washed out with soap by a moderator. I am embarrassed by doing that, properly contrite, and glad I was corrected.

Ha
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers
Old 03-23-2007, 01:57 PM   #45
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers

As the writer of the offensive "i-word," I can only say it has apparently been either taken out of context or over-reacted to. I was trying to make a strong point (I did scratch it out) but also giving the reason (high fees) and EP certainly isn't alone because the group includes my father and FIL. Variable annuities are truly sold today to people that don't do their homework.

Since my father died and left his VA to his children, I am a 20% owner of a VA. I couldn't convince them to cash it in early and pay the penalty. I'm looking forward to Jan 2009 when it "matures." Until then, I'm getting bled by a 1% annual annuity fee and mutual fund fees ranging from .7% to 1.6%. Fortunately (or unfortunately), it's a trivial part of my net worth.

Education level has very little to do with someone being an idiot or not. Not being willing to think for yourself and examine alternatives are a big part of whether someone is an idiot.

As for EP leaving the forum, he must have a very thin skin for my comment to drive him away. Not once did my post involve his sister, mother, his parentage or fascists.

Please consider me self-disciplined. I will attempt to be more sensitive in the future.

As for my financial base, I have a pathetic non-COLA future pension which is currently less than half of my future social security benefit at age 66 (11 years). I, of course, have the COLA's annuity the US members have -- SS. After that it's almost all in indexed mutual funds. I am very attuned to safe withdrawl rate options along with Bernicke and Guyton.
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers
Old 03-24-2007, 07:20 PM   #46
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers

What's funny to me is people who love their pensions, but trash annuities. Tie a yellow ribbon on your SUV.
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers
Old 03-24-2007, 09:27 PM   #47
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers

Quote:
Originally Posted by riskaverse
What's funny to me is people who love their pensions, but trash annuities.
IMO it's not whether it's a pension or an annuity, but rather the expense!
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers
Old 03-25-2007, 01:36 AM   #48
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers

Rich,

Thanks for starting this topic. I enjoy many of the topics on this board, but especially those that give me reason to re-think through my plans and ideas.

I am not retired yet and will eventually get a very small non-COLAed pension so I'm in the DIY camp. I find it interesting that I mentally treat my pension as its lump-sum cash value, not as its income stream value. I think I don't trust to leave my money with my former employer but would rather take the money and run [it over to Vanguard]. I would be interested to understand the feeling of security that those with pensions have as it pertains to a government-backed pension versus a company-backed pension. I know that company-backed pensions are insured by the government, sort of . . . . (limits apply, age eligibility rules, etc)

I've thought about Scott Burns advice to turn over a portion of one's retirement funds into an immediate annuity and while that has its own appeal, I too have trouble with the idea of turning over a huge lump sum to an insurance company (what if THEY go belly up, eh?)

There is definitely a lot for us Do It Yourselfers to worry about. And it doesn't help that I'm a first class worrier myself

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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers
Old 03-25-2007, 05:57 AM   #49
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers

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Originally Posted by Linney
I would be interested to understand the feeling of security that those with pensions have as it pertains to a government-backed pension versus a company-backed pension. I know that company-backed pensions are insured by the government, sort of . . . . (limits apply, age eligibility rules, etc)
Mine is a COLA'd, govt pension. I believe it is very secure, but I'm not sure there won't be changes that will decrease its value. >IF<< things turn sour in the US (Medicare underfunded, SS underfunded, continuing govt deficits, economy facing slow/no growth due to foreign competition and poor fiscal discipline in the US, etc), then I think the guarantees could suffer. We've already seen this with Active Duty military dependent medical care and with retiree copays for medical care. I think the decrease would come around the edges: annual increases tied to a CPI computation that is even more out of whack than today (don't get CFB started!), or even a decrement at the higher payment levels in tune with the class warfare theme ("This bill brings fairness to our system. Retired generals, most with well paying second careers, should not be taking home giant bundles of taxpayer cash while Social Security recipients are eating dog food!"). Look for no drop in Congressional benefits.

I don't think there's a high likelihod of this, but I do think it is a risk. And, like other risks, we can diversify our assets to help reduce the impact. That's why we have a higher percentage of equities than most retirees. I'm thinking about increasing our foreign holdings as well (we're at approx 15% foreign stocks now, plus the usual unknown amount of US stocks with heavy foreign presence).
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers
Old 03-25-2007, 07:51 AM   #50
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers

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Originally Posted by riskaverse
What's funny to me is people who love their pensions, but trash annuities. Tie a yellow ribbon on your SUV.
A pension is something you get for working somewhere that offers them. I can't say it's free money but, like social security, you get it whether you would rather have the cash instead or not. It's been shown (RE Home Page?) that a typical defined benefit pension can be duplicated by an individual saving 1 - 2% a year over their otherwise pensionless career.

In a few years I'll start drawing my meager non-COLA'd collection of pensions. I would rather have their "annuitized" cash value in my IRA instead.

I'll freely trash variable annuities. They are poor investment vehicles by any measure (unless you sell them) and I've never seen one worth owning over a low fee, index mutual fund outside the "tax shelter" of the annuity. I'm still waiting for someone to send me the details of one they think is. I am open to be proven wrong.

Immediate fixed (or inflation adjusted) annuities are another matter. I personally have never seen one I'd be willing to purchase but the concept is tempting. It gives "money for life" and stabilizes income. FIRECalc will give a portfolio using an annuity a higher survival rate than one without. I personally think that's a bug in the software. You can do even better in FIRECalc if you self-annuitize over your time period but that that's gaming the system.

On the downside I've run the numbers and the only way I come out better with a fixed annuity is if I live about 15 years longer than my mortality table says I should. When I see people going, I can get 8% return (meaning pay out and not true return) on my annuity, I say wait another year and you'll get 9%. So far, no annuity for me.

Run the numbers -- it isn't complicated. Use your brain. Be willing to change your opinion with new data.
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers
Old 03-25-2007, 10:10 AM   #51
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers

Being in the boat with a non-COLA'd unguaranteed pension plus a COLA'd guaranteed smaller one, my target SWR does not include them. I have not reached that target yet, but every year that I receive those pensions, they contributed to an improved financial position moving towards my target SWR (3%).

I agree that this is overly cautious but it is part of the reason that my portfolio excluding the present value of those pensions is 78% equities. I am taking more risks while I can enjoy receiving those pensions as a buffer.
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers
Old 03-25-2007, 11:46 AM   #52
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers

Quote:
Originally Posted by Linney
I think I don't trust to leave my money with my former employer but would rather take the money and run [it over to Vanguard]. I would be interested to understand the feeling of security that those with pensions have as it pertains to a government-backed pension versus a company-backed pension. I know that company-backed pensions are insured by the government, sort of . . . . (limits apply, age eligibility rules, etc)
I think you've answered your own question-- take the money & run. My FIL is a perpetual worrier himself and he sleeps much better with his lump sum instead of a pension check.

Once you achieve FI, many choose to strengthen the legs of their stool so that one shortened/cracked leg won't topple the stool. As Samclem says, veteran's benefits are constantly being sandblasted a millimeter at a time. That's why I think it's not only prudent but necessary to use the military pension as a base to build a long-term high-equity portfolio. And in your situation you could seek dividend yield or annuitize a portion of your portfolio-- asset allocation instead of all-or-nothing.

Anything bad enough to jeopardize a military pension would probably result in we veterans being recalled to arms anyway. It'd certainly take our minds off our financial troubles...
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers
Old 03-25-2007, 04:09 PM   #53
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers

Rich, you were very tactful and diplomatic in how you initiated the posting of this thread, as well as everything you post (you must have missed the lecture that day in medical school on achieving a high degree of arrogance and limiting interpersonal skills!). I do admit to being envious of persons with COLA pensions. Yup, they were obtained by years of working---but I had to work the same amount of years for my FI and then save and invest on top of that.

To give a personal example, I earned about $40K when I RE, doing very similar work with the same qualifications as counselors who worked for the state. After 30 years, they retire with 90% of what their salary had been. (this has been lessened for new employees just starting out now, because the system is going to be bankrupt with all the retirees.) Meanwhile, DH and I had to save 30 to 75% of what we were earning to have financial security.

Many of the workers with a 90% pension complain that they feel the pinch of earning 10% less than they used to. And they're limited to the provisions of the pension since many did not save anything to supplement the earnings. So technically, I have more to spend each year at a SWR of 4%, but I also have the lack of security of knowing my investments could tank and/or running out of money.

For those with a substantial COLA pension, it's got to be a different mindset in terms of spending and investing any money they did save. Isn't it always said that kids appreciate money more when they are actually working to earn it and not just being given it? So therefore, it follows that DIYers are more frugal/cautious with their money...

I'm not knocking anyone who gets a pension. Those of you who do had the luck or forethought to obtain employment that provided it. I'm just envious, but I'm also proud of what I accomplished on my own...
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers
Old 03-25-2007, 04:35 PM   #54
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers

Quote:
Originally Posted by tangomonster
I'm not knocking anyone who gets a pension.
I don't think it's a matter of knocking folks with pensions. It's a matter of understanding where people are coming from when listening to their comments on investing.

In my case, my FIRE status is based on roughly 40% non-cola pension/SS and 60% investment portfolio, so I'm somewhere in the middle. I know that 40% portion affects my strategy for the 60% portion. And I know folks who have large pensions would have their strategies affected even more. I just keep that in mind when listening.

Tangomonster, while a generous cola pension would be nice, many paid a heavy price. Those pensions sometimes lock folks into jobs/careers they absolutely hate and would leave in a minute if their pensions were portable. They show up on this board from time to time howling about "hell in cubeland" and other anguishing scenarios that make me grimace.

I think a 401K (or similar) plan with a good employer match looks very appealing today. No lock-in to a single employer for decades. Portability if you leave the job to follow a spouse or just to try something new.

Of course, if you do manage to work 30+ years for the government or some company that still offered dbp cola pensions and really liked what you were doing, that would be a wonderful thing.



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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers
Old 03-25-2007, 05:50 PM   #55
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers

I have a COLA pension, but A: I don't want to have to work long enough for it to cover everything, and B: even though it's through my state's gov't, I'm not fully convinced that what they say I'll get and what i will get in ~20 years will be the same thing. Hence we're saving as though we're DIY--making sure our necessities are covered in any case, and figuring on the pension for added fun and financial freedom. Paranoid? maybe--but after living through the telecom boom/bust, I don't take ANY employer's promises of lifetime financial security at face value. *shrug*
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers
Old 03-25-2007, 08:22 PM   #56
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers

For a long time now, I've felt fortunate not to have a pension. Obviously, an explanation is in order.

My grandfather was an electrician and worked almost his whole life with one blue-chip company. He worked hard, played by the rules, and retired on a nice pension. My father followed his example, becoming an electrician, working hard, playing by the rules . . . but late in the game, the rules changed. About 10 years before his planned retirement the big blue-chip company decided it didn't need or want a bunch of old folks hanging around long enough to collect their generous pensions. He was offered a much smaller package and shown the door.

Although I certainly like the idea of "guaranteed" lifetime income, I'm pretty glad that I'm not relying on someone else to provide for my future.
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers
Old 03-25-2007, 09:13 PM   #57
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers

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Originally Posted by 3 Yrs to Go
My father followed his example, becoming an electrician, working hard, playing by the rules . . . but late in the game, the rules changed. About 10 years before his planned retirement the big blue-chip company decided it didn't need or want a bunch of old folks hanging around long enough to collect their generous pensions. He was offered a much smaller package and shown the door.
Same thing happened to my Dad. Fortunately he had also run a successful side business and had considerable savings.

Moral-if you rely on a pension only settle for an employer with taxing authority. Helps to be in a public employees union also.

Ha

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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers
Old 03-26-2007, 09:05 AM   #58
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers

Quote:
Originally Posted by riskaverse
What's funny to me is people who love their pensions, but trash annuities. Tie a yellow ribbon on your SUV.



You owe me a NEW monitor..........

BTW, doesn't Vanguard SELL annuities? Don't see you guys analyzing them??
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers
Old 03-26-2007, 09:13 AM   #59
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers

I still say that having a pension "given" to you is not equivalent to "buying" an annuity...
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers
Old 03-26-2007, 09:26 AM   #60
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Re: Pensioners v Do-it Yourself'ers

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I still say that having a pension "given" to you is not equivalent to "buying" an annuity...
I often wonder how many people would join civil service or become a teacher without there being a guaranteed pension??

In other words, if the market dictated the needs and salaries of those professions, how would that shake out? I can't imagine if a teacher had to pay $600 or more a month for health care, there wouldn't be any left.............
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